University writing professor dies aged 63 – The GW Hatchet

Katherine Larsen, an assistant professor in the university’s writing program, died earlier this month. She was 63 years old.

Feedback joined GW in 1995, with faculty recalling that she taught about seven college writing classes each year and interacted with more than 3,000 students during her tenure, officials said. Larsen – a notable scholar of fandom, which encompasses fans of media or people – was a founder and editor for the Journal of Fandom Studies, author several books on the subject and has regularly spoken at national conferences on the importance of fandom studies in higher education.

She was also a strong supporter of labor rights for GW faculty and staff, working to form the first part-time faculty union as an advocate and member of its bargaining committee nearly 15 years ago. feedback too served member of the faculty association steering committee and contract faculty group, who specifically advocated for non-tenured faculty at GW.

Gordon Mantler, executive director of the academic writing program, said officials are considering creating a student writing and research award dedicated to Larsen. He said talks were still preliminary and officials were still trying to determine which students would be eligible to apply and what the purpose of the award would be.

“Many of my memories of Kathy revolved around our shared belief in greater equity at the University through our work together in GWUFA – she was a pillar of the group’s steering committee for years,” he said. he said in a statement.

Professors and students who knew her said she was a dedicated scholar and a faculty member who pushed her students to study less explored academic topics in culture and media.

Abby Wilkerson, an associate professor of writing, said Larsen was a constant advocate for his colleagues and other faculty members. She said Larsen regularly critical University policies that prevented or discouraged casual or part-time faculty members from receiving promotions or serving in administrative positions.

“I will always be grateful for his tireless work on behalf of the contingent faculty,” she said in a statement. “At that time when the phrase ‘home of union organizing’ was being applied to GW, to the English department in particular, another colleague did some research and learned that over 60% of GW teachers had then contingent positions. That changed, and Kathy played a big part in that.

Wilkerson said Larsen was always a friendly face in the English department and would give colleagues personal and professional advice. She said Larsen would help with topics ranging from lesson plans to baking bread with yeast.

“I said I’d try throwing a sourdough starter (my first time), and soon Kathy was happily and concisely delivering a valuable on-the-spot tutorial on the ways and means of sourdough,” she said. . “Was there anything she couldn’t do, and do well?”

Heather Schell, assistant professor of writing, said Larsen’s work had visible effects on the entertainment industry as she researched the viewer base of different media and television networks for a series of books she wrote on the subject. She said Larsen worked with the directors and main cast of “Supernatural” — a dark fantasy television series — to shape the show’s storylines and references, and garnered academic respect for her targeted area of ​​study.

“Kathy and I regularly attended the same national conference, so I got to see her star power in action on multiple occasions,” she said in a statement. “We were planning to have dinner one evening, and as we walked towards the restaurant, a number of enthusiastic co-workers would cluster around her, chatting animatedly and pushing their way through the group.”

Schell said students and faculty would physically gravitate toward Larsen because of his friendly attitude and helpful demeanor.

“I heard another teacher refer to Kathy as their ‘academic hero’,” she said. “Nearly all of the fandom tchotchkes in his office were offers from fans, colleagues and students.”

After Larsen passed away, staff at the Gelman Library added his name and “Fangasm” — the title of his book on “Supernatural” and what fans will do to contact their favorite actors — to the search bar on the premiere. page of their website to honor his research and his time at GW.

Anna Connelly, a senior English and communications student who took Larsen’s college writing course in her first year, said Larsen was one of the main reasons she decided to work as a consultant at the center. writing and continue his studies in the English department.

“She definitely had an impact on how I interacted with pop culture and intertwined college studies with that,” Connelly said. “But also, the path she helped me take through the Writing Center was very helpful, because after I came to the Writing Center, I was able to get many internships, and then after that, I was able to get a job even before I graduated.

Connelly said people who don’t view Fandom Studies as a legitimate area of ​​academic expertise have often professionally “stigmatized” the subject without giving it much professional attention. But she said analyzing the media industry and its audience is a good way to teach students how to think and write critically.

“I think she was really great at encouraging students to lean into that instead of practicing that academic distance that we’re used to in a lot of other subjects,” she said. “So I think she’s been great at teaching us how to fit our own personal interests into — in quotes — ‘respectable fields of study’.”

Danika Myers, director of the freshman writing program, said Larsen was an avid member of the university’s writing program and regularly helped other professors develop their programs and develop lesson plans.

“She was sitting there working on three projects at once, with an episode of Supernatural playing in the background on her computer, but she never acted like it was an imposition to help me think through a lesson plan or listening to me tell her a story about my child because she had a generous heart,” she said.

About Mark A. Tomlin

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